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Airmen demonstrate massive airdrop, teamwork in joint exercise

2/25/2011 - POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- Nine Little Rock Air Force Base C-130 Hercules and twice as many aircrews, along with maintainers and planners from the base, participated in Joint Operation Access Exercise Feb. 9 through 12 here and at Fort Bragg, N.C.

JOAX is a two-week exercise to prepare Airmen and Soliers to respond to worldwide crises and contingencies.

"It takes a team to execute this mission set -- operators, maintainers, mission support, joint users, military, civilian," said Col. David A. Kasberg, 19th Operations Group commander at Little Rock AFB. "When the team comes together, no matter what uniform they are wearing, it is awesome to behold."

Participants included Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division; Air Force C-130 and C-17 Globemaster IIIs and various other Air Force support assets such as maintenance, security forces and contingency response group Airmen and tactical air control party members.

The full Air Force team comprised C-130s and C-17s from several bases, executed more than 150 sorties which included dropping 7,569 troops, 29 container delivery systems drops, 10 improved CDS drops, 27 heavy equipment drops, 29 air-land missions to dirt or semi-prepared landing zones and one aero-medical evacuation mission.

The Air Force was primarily exercising the Global Response Force, a scaled-down adaptation of what was formerly known as the Strategic Brigade Airdrop. Together, the joint partners met all of their training objectives, helped one brigade combat team achieve jump currency and prepared another BCT for its upcoming Operation Enduring Freedom deployment, said Maj. Marty Smith, the 50th Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation and the lead C-130 planner for the exercise.

"The four annual JOAX exercises allow the Air Force to train in one of the most demanding mission sets we must be able to execute: large formation airdrop," Colonel Kasberg said.

Airdrop enables Airmen to interact and work with their joint partners, refine its requirement-driven processes and to drop many paratroopers in a single pass.

"Airdrop in the current war is limited to primarily single-ship operations, and we are very good at that," the colonel said. "However, this tried-and-true large formation combat insertion mission set is of vital importance as an option to our senior leadership, so we must embrace the opportunity to practice it. Our friends and enemies around the world should take note of this incredible capability, one that only the United States possesses ... truly amazing."

JOAX is an opportunity for Soldiers to get back to the basics of the parachute assault that might have lost some focus after almost ten years of deployments. For the first time since 2008, the entire 82nd Airborne is back home at Fort Bragg, N.C.

A lot of planning and coordination goes into synchronizing the many moving pieces such as the division headquarters, four brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade, a fires brigade, support transportation units and the many Air Force aircraft. Other nations have also been involved, such as paratroopers from the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment.

The exercise exposes the aircrews to the way the Army operates so working with Soldiers is more familiar in the deployed environment, said Airman 1st Class Marcus Kraatz, a 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

The exercise is "... important because it shows that we can deploy at a moment's notice and also sustain the fight," said Staff Sgt. Craig Neeley, a flight engineer from the 50th Airlift Squadron. "It shows that (the Army) can deploy their troops and get their troops to wherever they need to be."

(Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Alfano from 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs and Staff Sgt. Greg C. Biondo from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron contributed to this report.)

(Courtesy of 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs)

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